Thinking Outside the Box

One of the challenges of starting a new RUF-I and being a "Newbie" on campus is: How do you meet students? At fifty-seven, I am much older than the average RUFer. I already look out of place. The last thing I want to become is the Penn State stalker! I learned to think outside the box. The Lord used many unlikely people in the scriptures to do his work. If the unnamed slave girl pointed Haman to salvation, then God could use me, an old, out-of-culture (Southern) guy, to reach internationals at this large university. I prayed and the Lord provided two ways to think outside-the-box to meet these scholars.

First, Joe Dentici the RUF campus minister pointed out a location in the student center (HUB) where groups of international students were always gathered. It was next to the Burger King. This led to one of the most productive means by which I met students last semester. I would arrive and purchase my meal at the HUB about 11:45 am, praying as I walked. Then I would sit in the section next to the Burger King. By 12:00 the seats around me would be filled and people would have a hard time finding a place to eat. The next international coming out of Burger King would look around and see there were no empty tables. I would then invite him to come and sit at my table. Out of the twenty five times I have done this it has never failed! By the end of the meal I always have their name and contact information. I have met some of my most involved students this way. Being friendly and willing to show table hospitality has been very fruitful.

A second way of thinking outside the box is being willing to step out of my comfort zone. A group of female internationals from a country that does not encourage male and female contact hangs out in my office building on campus. I was praying about this group one day and decided to step out. I walked up to their table, introduced myself, and offered to bring them lunch (along with my wife) the next day. They were very busy because it was two weeks before exams so they all agreed. The next day my wife and I brought lunch for eight of the young female scholars. We had a great time! Now as I walk into the building I always get a “hello” or a smile from this group. It was the first step toward us getting to know this group. Again, stepping out and thinking out-of-the-box helped us meet a group that was unreachable, so we thought. I hope this is an encouragement to others to think outside the box on campus.

Richard Smith, Campus Minister for RUF-I at Penn State University
February 8, 2016 • 610-691-0988 • 631 Fourth Avenue, Bethlehem, PA 18018